Author: Chris Ledenican
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Tuesday, September 27th, 2011
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/CoolerMaster_Storm_Trooper/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
While the words Storm Trooper may conjure up images of the fictional white armored grunts of imperial army, the Cooler Master "Storm Trooper" case reviewed today isn't involved in any galactic struggles. The Trooper is the latest Cooler Master case to hit the market as part of its CM Storm series, and as such is geared exclusively for high-end gamers and enthusiasts looking for the best thermal performance, expansion, features and portability available.
The CM Storm Trooper is designed to facilitate all the aforementioned qualities by utilizing an impressive feature set that includes complete dust filter coverage, a built-in fan controller, external SSD drive hot-swap docking station, plenty of internal room for expansion and a reinforced handle at the top of the chassis. Of these features, the handle is quite possibly the most unique as it is designed to make this case easier to carry regardless of the size, potentially making it a great choice for LAN-party gamers not wanting to sacrifice performance for portability.
Cooler Master has also included features such as a damage resistant exterior, support for 14 storage drives, six fan speed settings and a front I/O panel that with built-in USB 3.0 ports, flashy LEDs and plenty of other options. So, as you can see Cooler Master really let their engineers go all out with the design of the Storm Trooper case, and it appears to cover all the bases (on paper at least) while including a feature set that would make most cases look like Jar Jar Binks. Sorry, just couln't resist.
At launch the MSRP of the CM Storm Trooper is $189. This makes it a rather expensive case, but as part of the Storm series there's high hopes the price tag will be justified.
USB 3.0 x2, USB 2.0 x2, e-SATA x1, Audio in/out (Support for HD audio)
Case Body: Steel; Front Bezel: Mesh and plastic
||250 x 605.6 x 578.5 mm / 9.8 x 23.8 x 22.8 inches|
||13.7kg / 30.2 lbs|
||Micro ATX/ ATX / XL-ATX|
5.25" Drive Bays
3.5" Drive Bays
8 (Converted from 5.25" bay by two 4-in-3 HDD cages)
2.5" Drive Bays
||13 (8 converted from 5.25" bays by two 4-in-3 cages)|
The glossy outer packaging box is adorned with a black and red color scheme. Each panel provides in-depth details, with the side and rear panels chock full of information about the case, while the front appeals to games with striking visuals of the case; somehow a depiction of a small SWAT team about to "storm" a building figures into it, probably to fit the "Trooper" theme.
The CM Storm Trooper is a full-sized tower that uses a sleek black design with nine perforated bay covers extending the length of the front bezel. At the bottom of the case is a front mounted panel with the CM Storm logo, which adds to the visuals while doubling as a removable bay cover. Overall the look of the case is not only unique, but in our opinion quite exceptional as well.
Cooler Master has constructed the case with a damage resistant rubberized outer surface that supposedly protects the panels from scratches or dents that tend to occur while the case is being moved around. This is really going to come in handy when lugging the Storm Trooper to a LAN event, as it reduces any potential damage. The case is also constructed from a high-grade steel that is designed to withstand the harsh conditions involved in transporting a system.
The rear panel of the case maintains the all-black outer design, but also includes an array of features like three access holes for water cooling and external cables, a rear 140mm exhaust fan, nine 5.25" bays covers that all include dust filters and a rear mounted power supply area. The back of the case also includes a "Storm Gaurd" security bracket, to the right of the expansion slots. The "Storm Gaurd" is essentially a security device for add-on peripherals such as keyboards, mice, or headsets and works by locking the cables in place to prevent them from being pulled out of a port.
The sides of the Storm Trooper feature a symmetrical design that gives the case an exceptional look, but it also allows both side panels to include the same convex surface area. This area will improve overall ventilation within the chassis, while conveniently doubling as a cable storage area to improve internal cable management.
On the predominant size, the convex area includes mounting support for an optional 120/140mm case fan, which would be used to cool internal components such as the chipset and graphics card. The front portion of the perforated panel already includes two internal fans, but both are isolated and only really effectively providing active cooling to the hard drives up front. As is, the Storm Trooper doesn't include any active cooling of its own near the motherboard, graphics card or CPU areas.
Turning the case over, the bottom panel includes plenty of ventilation and removable filters that will prevent the majority of dust from getting into the case. In addition, the bottom includes four securely fastened feet that utilize a metal and rubber design. The feet at the bottom of the case will improve the stability of the chassis while lifting the case off the ground enough to increase the overall airflow from the bottom, both of which should appeal to the gaming and enthusiast crowds.
At the top of the case is a sleek looking I/O panel that includes dual USB 3.0 ports, dual USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA connector, audio in/out options, a power button, reset button, fan LED on/off switch and a fan speed controller. Just below the I/O panel is a small rectangular opening. This is a 2.5” HDD/SSD X-dock that makes mounting an extra drive as easy as sliding the drive into the bay to access its data.
The fan speed controller includes two separate buttons. One of the buttons has a "-" icon on it to indicate that it lower the fans RPM, while the other button unsurprisingly has a "+" icon to show that it increase the fans RPM level. The fans have six fan speed settings that are all controlled via the top mounted fan control module.
With the bezels removed, you can see that the top of the Storm Trooper is anything but ordinary. This is due to the two reinforced handles that are attached midway point and at the back portions of the chassis. Both the handles are designed to give the user an easy means to easily carry the chassis. The handles can support a total weight of up to 95lbs, and the middle mounted handled includes a rubberized grip that will make it easier on your hands when using it to carrying the case.
The top of the Storm Trooper also includes a rectangular ventilation port with a removable filter and a 200mm case fan. While the top of the case already comes equipped with a large exhaust fan, it also features plenty of options for water-cooling. With the 200mm case fan removed, the Storm Trooper can accommodate a 240mm radiator at the top of the case. This is just one of three areas CM has designed to house water-cooling components, and you'll take a look at the others when this baby is opened up.
The removable bay cover found at the bottom of the case is actually a storage area for the accessories, which come secured inside a removable tray. This feature allows all the extra screws, brackets and cables to be kept in an area of the case that is easily accessed.
CM has included a 6-pin CPU cable extension, multiple screws and stand-offs, a metal 2.5" to 3.5" convertor, zip-ties and a speaker cable. This is actually a robust set of accessories for a case, which thanks to its partially tool-free design gives the user all the tools necessary to set up the case, route cables, install a floppy drive and extend the 6-pin power cable if required.
Since the Storm Trooper is a full-sized tower, it offers plenty of internal volume. The case can easily accommodate even the largest components, including XL-ATX form factor motherboards, as well as graphics cards that are 12.6 inches in length. In addition, the Storm Trooper has 9+1 expansion slots that enable the installation of up to 4-way SLI / Crossfire configurations. This makes it possible to install dual core graphics cards, such as the GTX 590 and HD 6990, in either a single or dual card setup.
The +1 expansion slot allows users to install add-on cards via PCI extensions, or other function panels like CCFL / Cold Cathode lighting control. This further increases the total expandability of the case.
Along with ample internal room to support graphics cards such as the HD 6990 and GTX590, the Storm Trooper also boasts isolated heat-zones.The zones separate the heat from the hard drive and main installation areas by way of two 120mm fans that push air though the hard drive area, but not into the chassis itself. This setup is going to provide different thermal results than a traditional push/pull configuration, however the HDD bays can be rotated to have the fans direct the airflow into the chassis and not out the sides.
The front of the case can accommodate three 5.25" optical drives, but it can also be customized to fit up to nine drives simply by removing the self-contained hard drive cages. Aside from just being able to house 5.25" drive bays, Cooler Master states this area can accommodate a radiator that is up to 482mm in length, via what Cooler Master calls "creative mounting". Having the ability to house a quad-fan radiator could lead to some impressive water-cooling configurations, but first time water-coolers (excluding those with nerves of Steel and a knack for modding) should most likely stick to using one of the areas that can fit a 240mm radiator.
The trays used to install the hard drives are similar to others on the market, so most people should be familiar with their design. To install a standard 3.5" drive onto the tray, all you need to do is to slightly bend them outward and slip the drive into place. Once installed onto the tray, the drive will be secured via four bolts. SSDs are a little different, as they are attached to the tray from underneath and secured via screws.
All of the available HDD trays can accommodate either a single 2.5" or 3.5" storage drive. This means the two self-contained hard drive cages alone can accommodate up to eight hard drives or solid state drives.
Once the hard drive is attached to the tray it can be secured into one the self-contained hard drive cages. To do this the internal cage can be removed, but this is not a necessary step. The drive slides into the cage and locks into place via the two arms on the side of the tray. To remove the drive, simply push inward on the two arms and slide the drive out of the case.
Cooler Master has included a secondary storage cage inside the Storm Trooper, but this one is dedicated to 2.5" SSDs. The cage is secured to the case via four screws that are threaded through the bottom panel. The cage can accommodate up to four drives, so in total the Storm Trooper can has the potential to support up to 14 drives.
With the SSD cage removed, a second internal radiator can be installed at the bottom of the case. The only issue is that a long power supply could prevent the radiator from being installed, but Neoseeker encountered no issues when using this area with this Corsair H-100, which uses a 240mm radiator. This is just one of the thee areas where an internal radiator can be installed, so their case is more than equipped to handle a dual-loop configuration, or a customized setup.
The Storm Trooper includes an easy-access back-plate cutout that allows users to install or upgrade a CPU heatsink onto the motherboard quickly. This is a feature has become standard in most cases, but Cooler Master has improved upon this by increasing the size of the cutout. This gives the Storm Trooper a wider range of supported motherboards, and should allow it to work with virtually any socket type.
Working within the Storm Trooper was extremely easy, and as you can see from the image below there were no issues installing any of the test hardware. Additionally, the cable management system worked flawlessly, as all our power supply cables routed nicely behind the motherboard tray, giving us an exceptionally clean looking case in the end. Aside from improving the internal visuals of the case, better cable management allows the internal airflow to work unhindered, as there is less clutter inside the case to restrict the airflow.
Once fired up, the case comes alive with red LEDs that are located both at the top I/O panel and the hard drive fans. This image washed out the effect of the LEDs, rest assured they look spectacular in the flesh and really improve the aesthetics of the case. However, if LEDs aren't your thing the fan LEDs can be turned off via the built-in control panel.
For testing I maintained an ambient room temperature of 70°F and used HWMonitor to monitor each component's internal temperature. The idle temperatures were taken after the computer remained on, but with no operating load for an hour. The load tests were taken after 30 minute tests of Prime95 and Furmark were performed. For HDD testing, HDTune was used.
The CM Storm Trooper delivered mixed results during thermal testing, which covered the case's ability to keep the processor, hard drive, graphics card and chipset areas cool. Of these areas, the hard drives showed the best thermal performance, as the CM Storm Trooper was able to keep our Seagate hard drive cooler than all the other tested cases. However, the temperatures of the chipset, graphics card and processor areas didn't really impress, as results demonstrated the Trooper to be lacking the necessary internal airflow to keep these areas cool. The results were still good, but at $189 it would have been nicer to see better thermal efficiency which could have been accomplished by adding one or more side intake fans.
Cooler Master did an excellent job in designing the Storm Trooper for the gamer and PC enthusiast markets.
Firstly, the outward appearance of the case is exceptional as it manages to nicely combine a clean look (through the side panels) with a more aggressive and rugged visual style seen with the top and front bezels. Traditionally I tend to prefer a cleaner looking case, but I have to admit the Storm Trooper really transcends the standard design and should appeal not to gamers and enthusiasts, but just about any type of DIY system builder.
Along with the aesthetics, the Storm Trooper also includes a very robust feature set. The most unique is the two top mounted handles which serve to make the already big case easier to carry. This is going to make it easier to either haul the Storm Trooper to LAN events, or just carry it over to a friend's house. The handles are reinforced to the chassis and can support up to 95lbs. Since most cases equipped with all high-end hardware will still fall well under the maximum weight threshold, the handles should be usable regardless of the type of hardware installed inside the Storm Trooper.
In addition, the Storm Trooper has ample room for high-end components. This is going to allow the user to install and transport all their extreme gaming gear, which could give them the advantage over gamers that choose to sacrifice hardware performance for a smaller and more portable rig.
To be sure, while the handles are going make transporting the case easier, they are not going reduce the weight of the case; they're simply a means to give users a better grip on the case. A heavy case is still going to be a heavy case regardless of handles, and if you have a hard time carrying around heavy equipment the Strom Trooper is still going to be hard to lug around.
On top of portability, the Cooler Master Storm also includes features such as damage resistant rubberized outer surfaces, an impressive top mounted control panel, support for up to 14 SSDs, ample room for all of today's largest components and accommodation for multiple water-cooling configurations. All of this makes the Storm Troop an ideal case for any gamer, and at $189 it is well below the price of other high-end cases such as the Corsair 800D or Thermaltake Level 10 GT.
The only thing we would have like to have seen added to the Storm Trooper is a USB 2.0 to 3.0 convertor. Not adding the convert is going to prevent anyone with a motherboard that only supports internal USB 2.0 connectivity from being able to use the two USB 3.0 ports on the front of the case. Overall this isn't going ot affect the case too badly, but anyone with an older motherboard one one that simply just doesn't include a USB 3.0 header might feel as if they got the shaft.
The only thing truly missing from the Storm Trooper (besides a USB 2.0 to 3.0 convertor) is a white and black color scheme to really evoke memories of that sci-fi classic (now available on Blu-ray, what timing), but maybe that could be something Cooler Master will consider in the future.
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